Today’s Editorial May 01: Tourism figures mostly encouraging

The latest statistics released by the Department of Tourism show a steady increase in air arrivals when compared to 2005 and 2006.

More importantly, the figures for March show an increase over those from March 2003, when the recovery of the tourism slump caused by the 9/11 terrorism attacks in the United States was well under way.

Equally important, the figures are showing steady gain on those from the first part of 2004, when the 9/11 tourism slump finally seemed to end.

Then came Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 and it’s been an uphill climb for air arrivals ever since.

March’s figures continue a steady climb against pre-Ivan figures, and although there is still some way to go to reach the heights of the months immediately preceding the hurricane, it seems the country has crossed an important threshold by surpassing the March 2003 figure, even if it’s only by two per cent.

Since stay-over tourism plays a vital role in the economy of the Cayman Islands, the upturn in air arrivals should be seen as very, very welcome news, especially with the slow tourist season almost upon us. We all hope the air arrival trend continues.

However, the latest tourism figures also held some interesting news when it comes to cruise ship tourism: The most cruise ship visitors ever to arrive in the Cayman Islands during the course of a calendar month arrived in March.

More than a quarter of a million cruise visitors came to shore during the month. For perspective, only 271,748 cruise passengers came to shore here in the entire year of 1987, and only 865,383 came to shore in all of 1997. Obviously, cruise tourism cannot continue to grow by such volumes over the next decade as it has the past two.

As was pointed out in the recent annual general meeting of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, and as it has been pointed out frequently over the past years, some sort of balance between cruise ship tourism and stay-over tourism must be achieved. If it is not, getting air arrivals to the desired pre-9/11 levels might prove an impossible task.

We hope the much-anticipated National Tourism Management Policy will finally put a plan in place to finding that all important balance.

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